EDMONTON – Hockey guys, working stiffs, sports writers… When it comes to retirement we’re all the same.
Even if her name is Carrie Underwood, eventually your wife starts to wonder how to get you out of the house.
“My wife is one of the reasons why I’m back. She’d ask me every day,” said Mike Fisher, who practiced long after his Nashville Predators teammates Thursday morning, in preparation for a return to the lineup that is still unscheduled.
We had to ask: “Was that in a, ‘Get out of the house’ kind of way?”
“No,” smiled Fisher. “I joked about that too, but she said, ‘I just want to see your name on that Cup.’”
This is the ultimate swansong for Fisher, the 37-year-old former Ottawa Senator who retired after the Predators’ failed Cup run last spring, but simply couldn’t stay away from the team that played hockey in his new hometown.
“Family, friends – the fact that I’m still living there. And the team still wants you to play?” he mused. “You don’t get that opportunity very often.”
The Predators are positively swimming along this season, the Western Conference’s top club who ripped off its sixth straight win and 12th consecutive over the Edmonton Oilers – Thursday evening at Rogers Place. Now, the rich get Fisher, with the veteran centreman coming out of retirement for the stretch run and playoffs.
“I had a conversation, the first one I’d had with [Peter Laviolette], and he said, ‘If you ever thought about it, the opportunity would be there.’ At that point, honestly, I wasn’t considering it. Then we had a conversation a couple of months later,” recounted Fisher. “The closer I got to knowing I had to make a real decision, the more I thought I was coming back. Watching the team play this year, it made it an easier decision for sure.”
To be honest, the Predators don’t look like they’ve missed Fisher, who retired on a 1,008 regular season games, and another 134 playoff tilts.
What can he bring to a team that is this good?
“First thing is his presence and leadership,” said rugged defenceman Mattias Ekholm. “He’s an all-around pro, and if you want someone to do all the little things right – a role model to look at – Mike Fisher is right at the top of the list.
“It seems,” Ekholm mused, “like we were never without him. That his presence was always here.”
It’s kind of scary to think that a team that went to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, and leads the West this morning, gets to bring in a player of Fisher’s calibre for the stretch run. There are so many intangibles that define a Cup winner, so many different parts that need to fit.
“Playoffs are a whole different story,” Fisher admits. “I think I can bring an even keel, a little bit of leadership. We know we’re going to be tested. Apart from that, I think I can contribute on the ice, wherever that is. Bring some depth.”
So often a team will make a long playoff run, enticing us into believing they’ll be back. Then they miss the playoffs altogether.
Nashville is legit. They’ll likely win the Central, though here is still rom for Winnipeg to quibble there, and appear bulletproof for a long playoff run.
How are they better today than they were last June?
“Last year,” Ekholm said, “Fish and, like, one or two other guys had ever been to a Cup Final. Now, I would say 17, 18 guys have been to a Cup Final, Maybe more.
“I guess you’re a little bit more calmer. You know a little bit what it’s about.”
Fisher was with Ottawa in 2007 when they came up short in the Final, and of course, bled with his teammates in Nashville as the Penguins defeated them last spring.
“You know, my career doesn’t depend on Cups,” Fisher said. “Do you want one? Absolutely, but there’s a whole lot more to it. I never thought I’d come back for one more year just to get a Cup.”
Well, sometimes the wife calls the shots.